Orlando to open center for families, survivors of Pulse tragedy

By News 13 and Bay News 9 Team Coverage,
Last Updated: Wednesday, June 15, 2016, 12:31 AM EDT
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The team of doctors, nurses and medical professionals at Orlando Health on Tuesday described the early morning hours Sunday at Pulse nightclub as "chaotic" and a "war zone."

Meanwhile, while investigators continue to comb the scene around Pulse, the city of Orlando is reducing the size of the crime scene and reopening some of the affected area. However, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings says Orange Avenue may not fully reopen for another week.

Orange Avenue will now be closed between Kaley Street and Grant Street.

On Wednesday morning, the city of Orlando will open a new center for those directly affected by the Pulse tragedy at Camping World Stadium.

WATCH: Survivor Angel Colon describes horrors inside club

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LATEST UPDATES

Update: 12:30 a.m.

On Wednesday the city of Orlando will open the Family Assistance Center to help those directly affected by the Pulse tragedy.

The center will open at Camping World Stadium at 10 a.m., and run until 8 p.m.

The center will then open every day until this Sunday.

Services available include:

  • Air Travel
  • Child And Family Services
  • Consulate Services
  • Counseling/spiritual Care
  • Crime Victim Services
  • Funeral Services
  • Ground Transportation
  • Health Care Assistance
  • Identification Documents
  • Language Translation
  • Legal Aid
  • Lodging
  • Medical Examiner
  • Senior Services

More information can be found on the Family Assistance Center website.

Update: 9:30 p.m.

As Isabelle Hogu read out loud the names of the Pulse shooting attack victims Monday, she started to cry.

“I scrolled ahead to see how many names were left and I saw something I didn’t expect,” Hogu said. 

Hogu, a Melbourne vigil organizer, discovered one of her friend's was listed among the 49 people killed.

“The first thing that came to mind, as selfish as it sounds, is why didn’t I communicate with that person more,” she said.

Then becoming overwhelmed with the magnitude of what thousands of people were now facing.

Isabelle says she could feel the love around her though as people came together to mourn the lives lost.

“I felt love, I felt people touching me on the back, I heard whispers of people telling me, 'you’re doing great, keep going, keep reading,'” she said.

As Isabelle does her best to move on from tragedy like so many others, she left a bit of advice.

“Don’t wait until almost 50 people are gunned down in a city, to say 'oh maybe I should give that person a call.' I regret that, I regret that immensely.”

Isabelle said another candlelight vigil is planned for 7 p.m. Friday in the Eau Gallie Arts District. They expect that vigil will draw even larger crowds.

Update: 8:30 p.m.

Thousands crowded inside the University of Central Florida Student Union for a vigil to honor the victims of Sunday's shooting at Pulse.

Two of the victims, went to UCF. Juan Ramon Guerrero was a pre-finance student, while Christopher Andrew Leinonen was an alumnus.

Storms couldn't keep the mourners away as they gathered around UCF's signature pegasus logo to pray and to mourn and to be inspired. They lined the upper floors of the cavern-like building to listen.

"Right now, take care of each other. Love each other," said former State Rep. Joe Saunders, who used to represent the UCF area.

Update: 8 p.m.

Orlando City Soccer has released its memorial plans for Saturday's game against the San Jose Earthquakes.

The team had said Tuesday that they would not do any of their regular promotions, instead focusing entirely on honoring the victims of the shooting last Sunday.

The plan includes:

  • Ticket donations will be made for first responders and support service personnel
  • Moment of silence during the game
  • Special #OrlandoUnited t-shirts for sale, along with gameday posters for $5 donations, with all net proceeds going to the OneOrlando Fund
  • Team members will wear comemorative patches
  • Permanent rainbow memorial in section 12 of the new stadium
  • Additional $100,000 donation from the Orlando City Foundation to the One Orlando Fund

Orlando City also announced it would be a title sponsor for Orlando Pride Week in October.

Update: 6:30 p.m.

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings says Orange Avenue could be shut down another week as FBI investigates.

Update: 5:10 p.m.

The Equality Florida GoFundMe page continues to break records.

Since opening Sunday, the fundraiser for the victim's of the attack at Pulse has raised nearly $4 million -- $3.7 million in fact, at the time of this writing.

GoFundMe says the page has broken the record for largest campaign ever by more than $1 million.

Meanwhile, the new One Orlando Fund established by the city has already raised nearly $2 million from big donors alone. The city says the money will be used to help the community right now and in cases going forward.

Take a look at the top donors for both campaigns.

Update: 4:20 p.m.

Omar Mateen's father spoke again to the media Tuesday.

Seddique Mateen said he spoke to his son's wife, Noor Salman and his grandson, but would not comment on reports that she is being investigated as part of the plot.

Seddique Mateen was asked today if he thought his son was gay, and all he said was people have a right to do what they choose.
He brought up an unprompted topic during the interview -- saying the Pulse nightclub should have had better security, and that would have stopped his son from killing so many people.

"Yes that would have been very good," Mateen said. "It would have eliminated him, and this tragedy would not have happened."

Mateen also said he did not know his son had purchased the weapons.

Update: 2:28 p.m.

Angel Santiago said that while everything was happening too fast during the terror shooting at the Pulse nightclub, he was thinking about his family.

He said that when the attack first started, he thought it would be over soon once he was in the bathroom along with other club goers, but he soon realized it wouldn't be when the shoots were getting louder and closer to the bathroom.

"I consider myself lucky to be here today," a recovering Santiago said from a hospital bed in Orlando Regional Medical Center in front of the media.

He also spoke about how much he liked the Pulse and how it made him feel protected.

"Being a gay man and going to a gay club like Pulse, it's a safe haven. I can't go into a regular club because there is hate everywhere," Santiago said. "(The Pulse) is your safe zone."

Just like Patience Carter, he is from Philadelphia, but he moved to Orlando in October.

Both were taken to Florida Hospital on Sunday.

Update: 1:59 p.m.

In an emotional retelling of the horrific events in the Pulse, Patience Carter explained how she was prepared to die on the bathroom floor of the nightclub.

"We were all having the night that we dreamed of. ... We went form the time of our lives to the worst night in our lives in a matter of minutes," she recalled.

She said that she lay wounded on the floor of a bathroom stall along with her two friends. She said that she overhear shooter Omar Mateen tell 911 that he was doing this because he wanted American to stop bombing his country and he pledged allegiance to ISIS.

She also recounted how Mateen said that there were other people involved with the night's attack and that he had snipers outside.

"I honestly feel like he couldn't pull that off by himself," she recalled from a hospital bed in Orlando Regional Medical Center in front of the media.

She said it was chaotic when the SWAT team burst through the way and there was gunfire everywhere. Once it was done, she looked for her friends.

One of Carter's friends, Akyra Monet Murray, laid on the bathroom floor, breathing, but not moving. She picked up her friend's phone, thinking she can give it to her at the hospital.

Later she would learn that Murray, the youngest of the victims at 18, died.

Carter suffered severe leg injuries.

Update: 1:01 p.m.

In a speech to the nation about the Orlando shooting that has left 49 victims dead and 53 wounded, President Barack Obama said that "anti-Muslim rhetoric" from presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is not what America is based on, reported the Associated Press.

The president attacked Trump for suggesting there be a temporary ban on Muslims from entering America.

"In my speech on protecting America I spoke about a temporary ban, which includes suspending immigration from nations tied to Islamic terror," Trump mentioned in a tweet on Monday.

The president said that talk like that makes Muslim-Americans feel like their government is against them.

Obama also called for Congress to pass tougher gun laws and to renew the assault weapons ban, according to CNN.

"We have to make it harder for people who want to kill Americans to get their hands on weapons of war that let them kill dozens of innocents," Obama said.

Update: 12 p.m.

One of the nurses who cared for Angel Colon described the night as "chaotic."

Colon looked up to the nurse, and said: "I love you guys.'

Added Cheatham: "The nurses are the true caregivers. ... The nurses did a phenomenal job."

Dr. Chadwick Smith, of Orlando Health, added: "It was singularly the worst day of my career and the best day of my career."

Smith said the scene was "patient after patient after patient."

"They would just operate and as soon as the room was done, they would move the patient and send me another one," Smith said.

Dr. Joseph Ibrahim described the hospital like a war zone. He said victims were coming in with wounds to the chest, abdomen and pelvis areas.

Update: 11:15 a.m.

Dr. Michael Cheatham, of Orlando Regional Medical Center, said disasters are something they plan for. But nothing like Sunday.

"All trauma centers around the world (plan for disasters," Cheatham said. "You can never prepare adequately. This was the largest disaster that we probably could have imagined."

Update: 11 a.m.

Forty-four people were brought to Orlando Regional Medical Center during the early morning hours Sunday. Nine died within the first few minutes of arriving at the hospitals.

Thirty-five victims were cared for, and 27 remain hospitalized as of 11:30 a.m., according to Dr. Michael Cheatham, of Orlando Health.

Six remain in critical condition.

Update: 10:45 a.m.

Angel Colon, of Polk County, said he was inside the Pulse nightclub early Sunday morning with hundreds of other people as the night was coming to a close.

It was shortly after 2 a.m. as they were saying their goodbyes.

"It was a great night," Colon said Tuesday morning from Orlando Regional Medical Center. "No drama, just smiles, just laughter."

Then shots rang out. Lots of shots.

Colon said he started running but fell to the ground when he was shot three times in the leg.

"I fell down. I got trampled over," he said. "I tried to get back up, but everyone started running everywhere. I got trampled over and I shattered and broke my bones on my left leg. By this time, I couldn't walk at all. All I could do is just lay down there while everyone was just running on top of me — trying to get to where they had to be."

Colon said he felt safe for a brief moment because he heard the gunman go into another room, but then 29-year-old Omar Mateen came back and started spraying more bullets.

"He's shooting everyone that's already dead on the floor making sure they're dead," Colon recalled.

Colon said Mateen then shot the girl next to him and then fired more shots at him.

"I'm just there laying thinking I'm next, I'm dead," Colon said.

Bullets were then fired at Colon's head, he said. They missed, but struck him in the hand and the hip. He pretended to be dead so he could try and make it out of the nightclub alive.

Colon recalls Mateen then continued to fire rounds for the next five to 10 minutes.

Colon said he thinks Mateen then went to the front of the nightclub and engaged in a shootout with law enforcement.

That's when an Orlando Police officer got to Colon.

This is how Colon recounted the next few moments: "I'm looking up and some cops — which I wish I can remember his face or his name, because to this day I'm grateful for him. He looks at me and makes sure that I'm alive and he grabs my hand and says this is the only way I can take you out. I said, 'Please carry me because I'm in pain right now.' I couldn't walk or anything. So he starts to drag me out across the street to the Wendy's and I'm grateful for him, but the floor is just covered in glass. So he's dragging me out while I'm getting cut on my behind, my back, my legs. I don't feel pain, but I just feel all this blood on me from myself, from other people. He just drops me off across the street and I look over and there's just bodies everywhere. We're all in pain. We were able to get to the ambulance and they brought us over (to Orlando Regional Medical Center)."